Womans hand holding the hand of a newborn infant

Mother of twins Jess Wheller shares her experience after hearing about Murdoch Children's research findings released 19 July 2016 highlighting alarming rates of depression for parents of babies born before 30 weeks. She hopes her story will help to further raise awareness of this important issue.

Premature twins, Grace and Xavier Wheller

Xavier and Grace were born 10 weeks early. They were 1.4kg and 1.2kg respectively. We didn't get to hold them when they were born - they were whisked away to the ‪Mercy Hospital‬ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and hooked up to machines to help them breathe and feed. We didn't actually get to hold them until two days later, and even then Simon and I only got to hold one baby each as they were only allowed out of their isolet for a short time.

I didn't get to breastfeed them until they had been in the world for five weeks, until that time they were solely fed through tubes. When I was discharged from the hospital, we didn't get to wrap our babies up and take them home to meet our family and friends. Instead we had to go home without them every day for eight weeks. I had to express eight times a day, including setting my alarm for 2am every night to produce milk to feed them through their tubes - I would cry looking at photos of them.

When our friend came to visit the NICU the week they were born, he was deeply affected by seeing our tiny little babies and all the other ‪premature babies‬ and (understandably) didn't come back. We were scared for our babies lives, and had to see them suffer through multiple stages of breathing support - words that became so familiar to us, CPAP, high flow, low flow...

Amongst all this were the highs. When their breathing supports were downgraded over the weeks, and eventually altogether - we got to see them in open cots for the first time. The first time they wore clothes, weeks after being born. The first time we held them together, and bathed them together. The first time they shared a cot. The first time they breastfed. The first time we saw their faces without tubes, and every time they put on weight. And the incredible support we got from our family and friends, and the nurses and doctors at the ‪Mercy‬, who became our extended family during that time.

Having a ‪ premature baby‬ - in our case ‪twins‬ - is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. I have never cried so much or been so scared. I missed out on the last 10 weeks of my pregnancy. Instead of nesting and having a baby shower, I was spending all my days in hospital. Simon was working full time and driving an hour to the hospital after work every single day.

It's difficult to understand unless you've been through it. We are lucky our gorgeous babies have come through their experience stronger, happy and healthy, but it took a long time to get this this point. I hope this provides some insight into why so many parents of premmies experience depression, and that if in future you know someone in this position that this helps you to be there for them.

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